November 29, 2022

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Iran city erupts in violence during 40th day anniversary of slain TikTok influencer

A violent confrontation between protesters and security forces has erupted on the 40th day commemoration of an Iranian Tik Tok star, gunned down last month by regime forces during nationwide protests.

Protesters honouring slain 22-year-old Hadis Najafi overwhelmed armed security forces opening fire on them in an attempt to prevent a mass gathering, allegedly seized some weapons and fought back. Photos and video of bloodied and regime enforcers appeared on social media, some lying dead or unconscious on roadways or in motor vehicles.

Protesters could be seen smashing a police car, with blood splattered on the side. “Death to the dictator!” chanted a massive crowd that had formed along the highway on the city’s northwest outskirts near Behesht Sakineh cemetery where Najafi is buried.

Smoke rose from burning vehicles and a police substation torched by protesters. Armed interior ministry special units in distinctive black helmets and body armour could be seen swarming along the highway, opening fire at the direction of protesters, some of whom had apparently captured a Shia cleric, derobed him and set his garb on fire.

The ongoing intensity of the uprising has surprised onlookers.

“A majority of people have reached the conclusion that this is the moment that they have to hold firm,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Independent Centre for Human Rights in Iran.

“Without any national or local networks, you keep seeing these protests growing. People have reached the level of confidence that there are many people like them throughout the country who are thinking the same.”

Najafi was struck down by gunfire during protests in the city of Karaj, an industrial and commercial hub just northwest of Tehran, the capital. She had studied fashion design and had made something of a name for herself with Tik Tok videos in which she lip-synched to popular Persian, Arabic and western songs.

Security forces pressured the family about her death, and kept her burial mostly quiet. But Najafi’s passing on 26 September has galvanised Karaj, a city of 1.6 million on the slope of the Alborz mountains, and turned it into a major centre of a nationwide movement aimed at bringing about the downfall of the Islamic Republic. Protests in the city erupt nightly, often in multiple neighbourhoods, exhausting and confusing the security forces.

Protests also broke out elsewhere across the country. In the Caspian Sea city of Amol, marking the 40th day since the death of mountaineer Ghazaleh Chalabi, protesters coursed through narrow streets, chanting against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

US Iran Protest Washington

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US Iran Protest Washington

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In the central city of Arak, large crowds gathered to honour Mehrshad Shahidi, a 19-year-old allegedly beaten to death by regime shock troops during a protest.

“This is the last message, we seek the overthrow of the system,” the protesters chanted near his grave, where they burned Islamic headscarves and portraits of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

In Fooladshahr, a steel town on the outskirts of Isfahan, shaky video footage showed rock-wielding young men and women confronting uniformed security forces as gunfire crackled, mingling with the joyous cries of protesters.

Regime security forces have killed 298 protesters and arrested at least 14,100 people in nearly seven weeks of protests that have touched 133 cities and towns across the country, according to Hrana, an Oslo-based monitor. At least 36 members of the security forces have also been killed.

The unrelenting protests and violence, sparked by the 16 September death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police, have deeply rattled the Tehran regime and thrown into question both Iran’s domestic stability and its international relations.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

(KHAMENEI.IR/AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday, Germany issued a dire warning to its nationals to leave Iran, warning that “there is a specific risk of being arbitrarily arrested, interrogated and sentenced to long prison terms,” after Tehran, without evidence, accused Berlin of culpability in a 26 October attack in the city of Shiraz that was claimed by Isis.

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